Commentary on the so-called Creation/Evolution/Intelligent Design Debate and Right-Wing nuttery in general - and please ignore the typos (I make lots!)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Salvador Cordova cites me when being dishonest...

... and the sycophantic simpletons at 'Uncommon Descent' just don't care...

Salvador Cordova is an Intelligent Design Creationist activist with a bachelor's degree in engineering (minor in music) who, like most underprepared creationist activists, fancies himself an expert on nearly everything*. He has argued with professional geologists about mantle plumes, he has argued with anatomists about the impossibility of ribs fusing to the sternum, he has argued with physicists about speed of light decay - you name it, he has argued the creationist position on it. And, of course, never once allowed the possibility that he might, you know, be wrong on anything. Because he is a creationist, and creationists cannot be wrong. Even when they are. But I digress...

Cordova has earned a reputation as a person who plays fast and loose with the facts, and even more so when he is quoting articles of people to try to prove a point. Which is why I linked to his article on Uncommon Descent as just the latest example of his dishonesty. And what is worse, he actually cites me (yes, 'FTK', it irks me, and if you think DS is 'looking good', I think I can conclude that you have pretty low standards), which compounds his dishonesty. I will get to why that is later, but first things first.

His article from May 2nd is titled Darwin dissed by doctors, and a design revolution continues at MIT. It begins with a half-assed attempt to prop up new Discovery Institute blathering creationist nutcake Michael Egnor, whom Cordova adoringly and embellishingly refers to as "One of New York’s foremost brain surgeons", and for whom a new term has been coined - Egnorance.

One of Egnor's big claims is that "Darwinism" is irrelevant to medicine. Cordova wants to support this claim - to prop up his new hero - by referring to [url=]this article[/url] from which he quotes:

Charles Darwin, perhaps medicine’s most famous dropout, provided the impetus for a subject that figures so rarely in medical education. Indeed, even the iconic textbook example of evolution—antibiotic resistance—is rarely described as “evolution” in relevant papers published in medical journals. Despite potentially valid reasons for this oversight (e.g., that authors of papers in medical journals would regard the term as too general), it propagates into the popular press when those papers are reported on, feeding the wider perception of evolution’s irrelevance in general, and to medicine in particular

Cordova editorializes in mid-quote, note what I have bolded:

Darwinists claim how important Darwinism is to science, but MacCallum’s editorial makes an embarrassing admission of Darwinism’s irrelevance to medicine. She also reports on the protests from medical students who find themselves forced to study Darwinism for no good reason. In reading the excerpt below, ask yourself, “why is it that a campaign has to be waged to teach Darwinism in science classes.” Do we need campaigns to teach the theory of gravitation or the periodic table?:

Randolph Nesse (University of Michigan) and colleagues think otherwise [2], and have been campaigning for evolution to be recognized and taught as a basic science to all medical students (see also the Evolution and Medicine Network, It has been more than 10 years since he and George Williams published their classic book Why We Get Sic: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine [3]. Other landmark texts linking evolution to health have been written since then, with new editions on the way [4–6], and the research field is blossoming. Still, as Nesse mentioned at the start of the York meeting, there are only a handful of medical schools in the United States and in the United Kingdom with an evolutionary biologist listed as such on the faculty.…the hardest task in adding evolutionary/Darwinian medicine to medical curricula may well be soliciting support from medical students. Although Paul O’Higgins thought a comparison of the brachial plexus to the pentadactyl limb was helpful, not all his students agreed—complaints were lodged that he was forcing evolution on them

But Cordova opted to stop quoting where he did for good (creationist) reasons, for the paragraph goes on:

But evolutionary medicine isn't and shouldn't be controversial, and the best way to challenge prejudice is through education. As the oft-quoted Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote in 1973, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” [15]. The time has clearly come for medicine to explicitly integrate evolutionary biolog into its theoretical and practical underpinnings The medical students of Charles Darwin's day did not have the advantage of such a powerful framework to inform their thinking; we shouldn't deprive today's budding medical talent of the potential insights to be gained at the intersection of these two great disciplines.

But the shenanigans get worse - the first quote provided above? Well, Cordova decided to stop quoting that paragraph when he got to the last sentence. Why? Here's why:

Yet an understanding of how natural selection shapes vulnerability to disease can provide fundamental insights into medicine and health and is no less relevant than an understanding of physiology or biochemistry.

Yes, quite an "embarrassing admission", eh Cordova?

'Nuff said on that.

The section of Cordova's hack propaganda regarding a 'design revolution' at MIT starts thusly:

In contrast, the design paradigm moves forward at one of America’s most prestigious universities. In Wanted: Biologists who can speak ‘math,’ engineers fluent in genetics [1] we learn:
One-third of the engineers at MIT now work on biological problems, according to Graham C. Walker, MIT biology professor.

He goes on with sickening, self-serving platitudes about how 'important' engineers and computer science is or will be to biology. And that [1] up in Cordova's quote? Well that is this endnote:

[1] (HT: [Doppelganger] at KCFS for the MIT Article)

And why would I have cited an article like that?

Well first, read it yourself:

Wanted: Biologists who can speak 'math,' engineers fluent in genetics

Here is the main reason that I referred to the article in the first place:

Teaching introductory biology to MIT undergraduates, Walker experiences the disciplinary disconnect firsthand. "It's a constant challenge," he says, "to find ways to make biology comprehensible and relevant to students who think like engineers."

Ironically, I was first made aware of the article by a creationist mechanical engineer who, like Cordova, actually seemed to think that the article in some way gave credence to the creationist notion that engineers have some special insight into biology. Had they actually read the article for something other than snippets that, devoid of context, can be employed as ego-boosting material for creationist engineers, they would have seen things like this, from the opening paragraph of the article:

Biologists, computer scientists and engineers speak different languages: Mention "vector" to a molecular biologist and a plasmid (a circular piece of bacterial DNA used in gene cloning) comes to mind. Say "vector" to an engineer, and she thinks of a mathematical concept. Similarly with "expression": To a biologist, it means protein production from a gene; to an engineer, it's an equation.

Try explaining that to a creationist engineer, and you get a load of arrogant gibberish about how their "engineering principles" give them unique ways of looking at genetics and biology in ways that the poor geneticists and biologists just can't comprehend...
Going on, they might have read the following, including this - the sentence that directly follows what Cordova decided to quote:

Yet it can be challenging for biology and engineering students to understand each other.

Or they might have seen one of these:

She told a room packed with MIT students and faculty that "engineering students tend to view biology as magic because they don't see us using differential equations. And often they don't even necessarily want to understand the 'what' of biology--they just want to use it.

So we actually teach biology to engineers using a function-based approach, with the idea of nature as the designer and evolution as the design tool," Lidstrom says. "That's real engineering. And that's the way we feel biology should be taught."

To help her engineering students feel comfortable in this strange new territory...

Hmmmm... biology a 'strange new territry' for engineers... a constant challenge to make biology comprehensible to engineering students... Nature used as the 'designer' with evolution the 'tools'...

Yup... Sure sounds like ID is alive and well at MIT and that engineers are the true authorities in matters biological...

OK Cordova - say, you let me know when that newspaper taxi drops you off under marmalade skies....

*Which fits in nicely with this saying:

When you earn a Bachelor's degree you think you know everything
When you earn a Master's degree you realize how little you knew
When you earn a Doctorate, you realize how little everyone knows about everything

and it is also yet another example of the Dunning-Kruger effect


Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

Sal. I love him. Never stops bringing teh funny.

Doppelganger said...

And he doesn't even try...

Jesus must be SOOOOO proud - almost as proud as 'Sir William' Dembski, the Ted Haggard of Information Theory...